By Rain Francis.
It seems now is the hour for marvellous dance documentaries. The much anticipated Pina by Wim Wenders did not disappoint and next month, dancers and film fans can look forward to what has been called “an enormously satisfying”* documentary, First Position.
Produced and directed by ex-dancer Bess Kargman, First Position follows six young dancers as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix. Every year the prestigious competition attracts over 5000 applicants, of which 300 are selected for the finals in New York City. It is an opportunity to be seen by the world’s top dance schools and companies, who may offer scholarships and contracts based on the dancers’ performances. The stakes are high.
The six dancers on whom the film focuses share a fierce determination and a love of dance, but this is where the similarities end. With origins as diverse as Sierra-Leone, Israel and California, their upbringings differ greatly. Kargan sheds light on each dancer’s family life, circumstances and path thus far. Parents and teachers are also interviewed, giving further insight into the way of life these young dancers are entwined in.
In the same way that Black Swan has been embraced by an audience beyond balletomanes, First Position is sure to engage even the non-dancer. It has won the Audience Award at both DOC NYC Film Festival and the San Francisco Documentary Festival in 2011, and is part of the official selection for several other festivals the world over. Film Journal International called it “a supremely feel-good film”, Criticize This called it a “masterpiece”. First Position opens in cinemas in on May 4.
*Alissa Simon, Variety